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March 24, 2005

The Poetry Foundation and the Library of Congress Cosponsor Poet Laureate's Newspaper Project

The Poetry Foundation and the Library of Congress are cosponsoring the "American Life in Poetry" project, a weekly newspaper column compiled by the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry Ted Kooser.

Kooser is offering the weekly column free of charge to any paper wishing to carry it. Each 6- to 8-inch column features a short poem by a contemporary American poet and a brief introduction to the poem by Kooser. Outlets interested in receiving the weekly column should register for free delivery at www.americanlifeinpoetry.org, starting Thursday, March 31.

"Newspapers are close to my heart and my family," said Kooser, whose wife and son both work in journalism. "As Poet Laureate, I want to show the people who read newspapers that poetry can be for them, can give them a smile or an insight."

Poetry was long a popular staple in the daily press. According to Kooser, "Readers enjoyed it. They would clip verses, stick them in their diaries and enclose them in letters. They even took time to memorize some of the poems they discovered."

In recent years, poetry has all but disappeared from newsprint. Yet the attraction to it is still strong. Kooser said, "Poetry has remained a perennial expression of our emotional, spiritual and intellectual lives, as witnessed by the tens of thousands of poems written about the tragedy of Sept. 11 that circulated on the Internet. Now I’m hoping to convince editors that there could be a small place in their papers for poetry, that poetry could add a spot of value in the eyes of readers. Best of all, it won’t cost a penny."

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced the appointment of Ted Kooser to be the 13th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress on Aug. 12, 2004. On making the appointment, Billington said, "Ted Kooser is a major poetic voice for rural and small-town America and the first Poet Laureate chosen from the Great Plains. His verse reaches beyond his native region to touch on universal themes in accessible ways."

John Barr, president of the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation, said, "It is an honor to be allied with the Library of Congress. Through the office of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, the Library has done much to celebrate the best poetry and enlarge its audience. We are natural partners in the American Life in Poetry project, which will help get good poetry back into the mainstream."

The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine, is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in American culture. It has embarked on an ambitious plan to bring the best poetry before the largest possible audiences. In the coming year, the Foundation will sponsor a recitation contest in schools, a major new poetry Web site, and an unprecedented study to understand poetry’s place in American culture.

The Poetry and Literature Center in the Library of Congress administers the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1936, when the late Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry there. Since then, many of the nation’s most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of public law 99-194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. The Poet Laureate suggests poets to read in the Library’s literary series and plans other special events during his or her term in office.

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PR 05-052
03/24/05
ISSN 0731-3527

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